MacroDiet ~ Contributors Navigation Menu
Is Milk Good For You?
by Helen MacDonald, Dairy
Farmers of Canada
|The argument that
drinking milk is against the natural order of things is irrelevant and asinine.
To begin with, the human body produces lactase, whose only function is to break
down the milk sugar lactose. Why would many adults continue to produce lactose
if drinking milk were ''un-natural''. Furthermore, no humans produce the enzyme
alpha-galactosidase which is necessary to break down certain carbohydrates in
beans, yet no one claims that eating beans is ''against the natural order of
things.'' Obviously, we were ''meant'' to drink milk or we wouldn't produce
Calves, like human infants, live exclusively on their mother's
milk until their stomachs are mature enough to handle food. Cows, unlike
humans, are herbivores. Once mature, a cow's digestive system allows her to get
all the nutrients she needs (including calcium, phosphorus and protein) from
grass and grains. The adult human digestive system is unable to do this well.
Cereal grains became part of our diets with the introduction of agriculture,
only about 10,000 years ago. That hasn't been enough time to effect the kinds
of changes in our genes a diet containing only plant foods would require.
Some people believe that drinking milk is unnatural
since almost no other animal consumes the milk of another species. If we were
to apply that same logic to everything that humans do that other animals don't,
we would find that there are very few things we could call ''natural''. We grow
our own food, wear clothes, speak a variety of languages... the list is
endless. The fact is that in much the same way we plant and harvest crops to
survive, we drink milk for the unique and exceptional nutritional advantages it
Milk-drinking, especially in north-western
Europe and the deserts and semi-deserts of Africa and Asia, has a long, long
history. Humans have raised ruminants for meat and milk products for thousands
of years before recorded time. Dairy cows have not always been the main source
of milk. The kind of animal raised depends on climate and terrain. In India and
Pakistan, milk is more likely to be from water buffaloes, in arid zones, camels
are preferred in mountainous areas, the milk suppliers are often sheep or
goats, in very northern climates, elk and reindeer are the milk providers.
People depend on milk as an important source of nutrition all over the world.
Since the domestication of animals 10,000 years ago, they nearly always have,
and chances are, they always will.
It is not a
misconception that milk is a rich source of calcium and minerals - that is
scientific fact. As for the protein, milk is a moderate source of this nutrient
in the proper ratio to calcium to ensure propre absorption. It's true that milk
contains negligible amounts of iron - no single food contains every nutrient.
But many fruits and vegetables (e.g., mangos, lettuce, cucumber, apricots,
grapes, and potatoes) are similarly poor sources of iron - does that mean we
should not eat those foods either? Dairy calcium does NOT impede iron
absorption. Ms. Ghandi shows her lack of nutrition knowledge with her statement
that vegetables are the best source of iron, in fact, most vegetables are a
poor source because of low bio-availability. Meat is by far the best dietary
source of iron. Ms. Ghandi's ignorance is further displayed by her contention
that a bowl of spinach is equivalent to 50 gallons of milk. The iron in spinach
is almost completely non-available because of its content of oxalic acid.
The calcium absorption figures for cabbage and
cauliflower are grossly exaggerated, and even then their absolute content of
calcium is so low as to be irrelevant.
inappropriate to claim that ''Asians and Africans'' are lactose intolerant'' -
to cite but one example, the Masai of Africa practically exist on milk.
Moreover, ''Asian'' is not a race, and the majority of Indians are certainly
not lactose intolerant. In many tribal societies in Africa, people are
dependent on dairy cows for both food and income. Obviously, they and their
neighbours are not lactose intolerant.
exerts agree that milk is in no way related to constipation, asthma or acne. As
for kidney stones, it is in fact high oxalate foods like spinach, okra and
eggplant that render a person more susceptible to kidney stone formation. The
majority of experts recommend MORE dairy calcium to reduce the risk of kidney
stones. And again, leading osteoporosis experts agree that milk is absolutely
helpful in reducing risk of osteoporosis, not only because of the calcium, but
also because of its moderate protein content as well as magnesium, phosphorus
and vitamin A.
In a country where high-quality
protein is hard to come by, milk is extremely important. And in a vegetarian
diet, the vitamin B12, calcium and zinc provided by milk is invaluable.
Finally, the statement that drinking milk ''weakens
the body and makes it prone to asthma and cancer'' is ludicrous. As stated
previously, milk has no connection to asthma (pollution is something the
government might look into), and there is very strong evidence that dairy
calcium reduces the risk of colon cancer and whole milk reduces a woman's risk
of breast cancer.
Milk is one of the most
nutrient-dense foods available to humans who are smart enough to consume it.
For someone with no nutrition training to try and dissuade people from using it
in order to promote their own ideological agenda is completely